Build Bigger Muscles With Hypertrophy Training

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There are many excellent reasons to exercise regularly, but there’s no doubt that one of the most common motivations is building bigger muscles – a process called hypertrophy. While lots of factors beyond the weights room help to achieve this, such as diet and how you go about recovering between sessions, there’s a specific way to train which promotes hypertrophy.

For more info on what hypertrophy is, how you achieve it and a workout to help you do just that, we enlisted Gary Williams, head coach at UN1T London Bridge.

What is hypertrophy and how do you achieve it?

“Hypertrophy means to build muscle by increasing the size of your individual muscle fibres,” says Williams. “It sounds weird, but hypertrophy involves causing damage to the muscle tissue, known as microtrauma. It is the healing of this trauma that causes the increase in size of the muscle tissue.

“Hypertrophy training is generally two to three sets of ten to 15 reps, completing repetitions at a manageable but still challenging weight. So if you are doing three sets of 12 repetitions the weight you use should be heavy enough that you cannot do more than 12 reps, but not so heavy that you cannot get to 12.

“If you know what your one-rep max is, you should be looking to lift between 65%-75% of your 1RM for eight to 12 reps for three to six sets.”

Workout For Hypertrophy

Williams’s workout is one of UN1T’s BU1LD hypertrophy sessions.

“The session causes overload to a particular muscle group through compound sets,” says Williams. “A compound set is where you perform two exercises targeting the same area of the body back-to-back. They are super-effective during a hypertrophy phase because it is an efficient way of getting the volume of repetitions in and fatiguing the intended muscle group, all of which is needed to build lean muscle tissue.”

The workout is broken up into five sections, with each continuing two exercises that you do back-to-back. Do ten to 15 reps, depending on your ability, of the first exercise then go straight on to the second for ten to 15 reps. Rest for 90 seconds, then complete another set of the two moves with the same number of reps as the first set. Do three sets of each pair of exercises.

1A Barbell squat

Barbell back squat

Sets 3 Reps 10-15 Rest 0sec

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a bar across the front of your shoulders. Engage your core, then bend at your knees to lower, ensuring that your knees track the line of your feet, until your thighs are at least parallel to the ground. Then drive back up.

1B Bulgarian split squat

Sets 3 Reps 10-15 Rest 90sec

With your back foot raised on a bench or stool take a step forwards, roughly the same distance as you would step when performing a lunge. Put most of your weight through your front leg and bend at the knee to drop your back knee, then drive back up through your front foot.

2A Pendlay row

Sets 3 Reps 10-15 Rest 0sec

Stand with a barbell on the floor in front of you. Hinge at the hips until your chest is parallel to the floor. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip and your hands wider than shoulder-width apart, and lift it towards the bottom of your sternum. Lower the bar back to the floor and reset before your next rep.

2B Seated narrow band row

Sets 3 Reps 10-15 Rest 90sec

Sit with your legs extended and loop a resistance band around the soles of your feet, holding the ends in your hands. Keeping your elbows tight to your body, row your hands back until your elbows break the line of your torso. Bring the band back to the starting position under control.

3A Bench press

Bench press

Sets 3 Reps 10-15 Rest 0sec

Lie back on the bench with your feet planted on the floor. Place your hands on the bar with a wide enough grip so that your hands remain above your elbows throughout the movement. Lower the barbell down to the bottom of your sternum, with your elbows pointing out at roughly 45°. With a powerful drive, push the barbell back up above your chest.

3B Dumbbell flye

Sets 3 Reps 10-15 Rest 90sec

Lie flat on the bench holding dumbbells directly above your chest with your palms facing. Slowly lower the dumbbells out to the sides, keeping a slight bend in your elbows at all times, until the dumbbells are level with your shoulders. Squeeze your pecs and return back to the starting position.

4A Romanian deadlift

Sets 3 Reps 10-15 Rest 0sec

Stand holding a barbell in front of your thighs. Hinge at the hips to lower the bar, keeping it as close to your thighs and shins as possible. Lower until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings, then drive your hips forwards to return to an upright position. Ensure that you keep your back flat throughout and perform the movement with a slight bend in the knee.

4B Hamstring walk-out

Sets 3 Reps 10-15 Rest 90sec

Lie on your back on the floor, with your knees bent at 90° and your heels on the floor. Push the weight through your heels and lift your hips. Slowly walk your heels away until your feet point straight up, keeping your hips as high as possible. Then slowly walk them back to the start position.

5A Overhead press

Overhead press

Sets 3 Reps 10-15 Rest 0sec

Hold a barbell in the top of your chest with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, palms facing up. Drive the barbell up above your head until your arms are at full extension. Try to finish with your head slightly pushed forwards to activate the rear deltoid as well. Then bring the bar back down slowly.

5B Dumbbell reverse flye

Dumbbell reverse flye

Sets 3 Reps 10-15 Rest 90sec

Holding dumbbells, hinge at the hips until your torso is close to parallel with the floor and your back is flat. With a slight bend in your elbows, lift the dumbbells out to the sides, keeping your hands and elbows in line with your shoulders, and squeezing your shoulder blades back. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.

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